XYZ: The Wound
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Welcome to the Anthropocene, an illness considered a wound – well-diagnosed, tended to, and kept under control – whose reality has recently spoken, from under provisionary stitches and sterile yet poorly applied dressing, to reveal an active infection.
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A guided tour across the carbon imprint of human desire based on a movie by Merritt Symes.
Dominic Pettman is Professor of Culture & Media at Eugene Lang College and the New School for Social Research. He has held previous positions at the University of Melbourne, the University of Geneva, the University of Amsterdam, and the American University of Paris. His courses center around posthumanism, critical theory, Continental Philosophy, cultural studies, digital culture, animal studies, sound studies, postmodernism, new media, and affect theory.
“Xenotemporality: Navigating extra-human time”. In this brief presentation Bauer introduces Xenotemporality, a 4 year a research project she is developing at CREAM, Westminster University, London. She argues the human experience of time has historically guided our conception of it but that this anthropogenic conception of time is too parochial for our current needs. The Anthropocene ties humans and human activity to time outside of experience, both deep past and deep future. These conditions establish a need for a rethinking of time itself, demoting our experiential understanding of it and removing the human as the primary measure of its ontology. The primary aim of this research is to develop a way to think about time and its ontology through science that can assist in dislodging the persistent linearity of experience and broaden the conceptualization and relationship to time at exta-human scales. This projected uses both writing and the production of short moving image works to think about these alternate temporalities.
“On Sites and Situations – Patricia Reed.” The planetary, as a purely epistemic determination, offers little orientation as to how to manifestly coexist within it. This talk argues that it is necessary to find ways to embed ourselves within the condition of planetarity, understood as a multi-dimensional space, in order to discover traction for transformative social possibilities at the level of cohabitation. Understanding situatedness within (and not at) planetary dimensionality is not given, nor immediate, but implies the spatial reconception of a site for which embeddedness is dependent. Where does a site start, and where does it end within planetary entanglement, and how do these implicit geometries affect our conception of agency/accountability? How are our spatial intuitions of ‘location’ transformed by the multi-scalar condition of planetarity, and how may we begin constructing dynamic coordinates for understanding positionality within it? How such spatial descriptions evolve are not trivial exercises, but generate frames of reference for orientation that affects how being situated is understood, experienced and acted upon in socially consequential ways.
LABORIA CUBONICS – is a xenofeminist collective, spread across five countries and represented by Diann Bauer, Katrina Burch, Lucca Fraser, Helen Hester, Amy Ireland, and Patricia Reed. The collective’s work concentrates on the politics of alienation explained in the group’s Manifesto, the extended form of which is Xenofeminism by Helen Hester, published by Polity Press in 2018.
Anthropocene’s central tenet is widely recognized as involving an unprecedented influence on planet Earth by the human species. The current debate on the climate reflects this recognition of the human impact, as illustrated by appeals to address environmental problems through change in human behaviour – e.g. making sustainable choices and acting accordingly. In that it involves the impact of individual choice and action upon shared but finite resources (planet Earth), the human relation to the environment can be conceptualised as a variant of William Lloyd’s notion of the overuse of common grazing pastures by private individuals, later designated by Garrett Hardin as ‘tragedy of the commons’. A key assumption underlying the ‘tragedy of the commons’ – as well as the various utilitarian and deontological approaches that have been offered as moral paradigms to regulate individual relation to shared resources – is that human individuals are able of acting purely deliberately and rationally, and that purely deliberate and rational decision-making delivers the most desirable outcomes. However evidence shows that humans are not purely deliberate and rational agents. Instead, as William James observed, human behaviour is largely involuntary and inextricable from affective influences. Furthermore, as Antonio Damasio’s somatic marker hypothesis suggests, when access to affective influences is impaired (e.g. in pathological conditions), decision-making is impaired as well. In my paper I consider the anthropocenic understanding of human as geological agent in relation to the philosophical notion of human as moral agent, and assess this relation in the light of neuroscientific evidence about decision-making as neurocognitive function involving a significant involuntary, automatic (i.e. non-rational) dimension. Drawing on Aristotle’s theory of virtue, I propose an alternative paradigm for conceptualising the human relation to planetary resources which explicitly acknowledges (rather than assumes) and reinterprets the involuntary, automatic, non-rational dimension of human behaviour as a potential resource (rather than a hindrance) for the pursuit of morally relevant environmental goals.
Alessia Pannese trained in law (Laurea, University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’), veterinary medicine (Laurea, University of Perugia), veterinary science (MPhil, University of Cambridge), neurobiology and behaviour (PhD, Columbia University), and literature and arts (MSt, University of Oxford). She has held fellowships at Institutes for Advanced Studies in New York (Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America), London (University College London – Institute of Advanced Studies), Paris (Institut d’études avancées), and Delmenhorst (Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg).
After the turn of the millennium a new wave of eco art flushed through the contemporary art scene with new aesthetic forms and discourses. In my presentation I want to ask the overall question: how does ecoart ‘rework the wound’ of our current climate changed age. As indicated in the title I will suggest that there are two different ways in which art relates to the current environmental upheavals, and both are part of a reworking of the wound. In one sense eco art it is about representation (darstellung) of new imaginaries, objects of concern and so forth. But in another many eco art artworks are merely working with representation, but also investigation and intervention, which makes the question of representation more nuanced to include actual, and thus different, subjects – as in the vertreten – following Spivak’s distinction. The latter seems to be an important way of reworking the wound in the ‘banal Anthropocene’ where it is difficult “to see the terrors and erasures of the cornfields” (Swanson).
Anette Vandsø is associate professor at School of Communication and Culture, Aarhus University with a ph.d. in Aethetics and Culture. Her current research project “Aesthetic configurations of nature” was conducted in relation to the art museum ARoS’, vast exhibition The Garden: The End of Time the beginning of Time exhibition (2017). She was editor of the peer reviewed part of the catalogue, and has published broadly on the issues of environmental art latest “The Sonic Aftermath: Anthropocene and Interdisciplinarty after the Apocalypse” (2020), “Art for a climate changed world” (2019), “Can we land on earth? – an interview with Bruno Latour” (with Line Marie Thorsen), “Listening to the Dark Side of Nature” (2016).
Charles Darwin closes On the Origin of Species with an open-endedness on par the phenomenon of evolution itself: “endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved” (1859, 459). His sly slight of poetic hand still holds true: forms are endlessly evolving. Yet, at the advent of the Anthropocene life is being pushed to its limits the world over. Evolutionary biologist E.O Wilson sums up this push in the opening gambit to his book on The Future of Life: “the race is now on between the techno-scientific forces that are destroying the living environment and those that can be harnessed to save it” (2003, xii). And yet, through technoscientific conservation, these “endless forms…are being, evolved”, via Assisted Evolution and Synthetic Biology, which aim to increase the ability of coral species to withstand the rate of biophysical change. For the first time in the history of life on Earth, “endless forms…are being, evolved” through intention: via design and engineering.
So, contra Wilson, what if harnessing technoscience may become part of the “race” between “destroying the living environment” and “forces…to save it”? This presentation considers these issues in the current application of technoscientific conservation, drawing on the author’s existing collaborative research with scientists undertaking this research. The discussion centers on the work of philosophers Ronald Sandler (2012 and 2015) and Christopher Preston (2013 and 2018) who probe the efficacy and ethics arising from the quagmire of conservation through technoscience. Ultimately I seek to address the logical contradiction arising from the question of to what extent will humans ‘remake’ nature in order to ‘save’ it?
Darwin, Charles. (1859). On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, Or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. London: J. Murray, 459.
Wilson, Edward O. (2003). The Future of Life. New York: Vintage, xii.
Josh Wodak works at the intersection of the Environmental Humanities and Science & Technology Studies. His research addresses the socio-cultural dimensions of climate change and the Anthropocene, with a focus on the ethics and efficacy of interventions designed to mitigate human impact on the biosphere, through Synthetic Biology, and on the atmosphere, through Climate Engineering. He is currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University
A4As a concept ’the Anthropocene’ encourages us to understand ‘human’, ‘time’ and ‘materiality’ in new ways – proposing a new ‘material’ scale regarding human impact on Earth’s geology and questioning our notion of time by suggesting a revision of the geological timescale.My paper explores this by looking into the way gold is used in contemporary art, for example in James Lee Byars’, Monument to Cleopatra (1988), Grayson Perry’s Prehistoric Gold Pubic Alan Dogu (2007) and Damien Hirst’s The Golden Calf (2008). As a material gold is found in many forms in contemporary art. In these works, gold is used to point to distant prehistoric cultures and to hint at a continuation in the way humans use gold either to express beliefs in a transcendent order or to express status and wealth.
In the present context of an accelerating climate crisis, the use of gold in art acquires new meaning. Gold is not connected to the waste products of consumer culture such as plastic and carbon that carry strong connotations linked to the climate crisis, but, as a symbol of ‘wealth for the few’ and as closely connected with colonialism, gold relates to core issues of late capitalism. At the same time the use of gold has a long cultural history reaching back to prehistory. Pointing to this history, artists refer to a long and global history of material entanglements.
When artists incorporate old myths and beliefs related to gold into their works and find inspiration in the use of gold in ancient cultures, they add a complexity to the discussion of the Anthropocene. I will map some of them as I analyse the artworks using the methods and concepts presented by scholars such as Jussi Parikka and Jason W. Moore. Possibly, these golden artworks can add to a discussion of an ‘Anthropocene’ geology of media and to the discussion on deciding on a ‘golden spike’ that may define the starting point of the new era.
Gry Hedin is an art curator and researcher at ARKEN Museum of Modern Art. He holds a PhD in Scandinavian Studies and an MA in Art History from University of Copenhagen. He has specialized in the relationship between art and science, focusing on Scandinavian art and literature from the nineteenth century to today. In recent years, he has focused on the relationship between art and the climate crisis and my present research focus on contemporary art. He has published several articles in international journals on art and science, and he is the editor of the research-based anthologies ‘Artistic Visions of the Anthropocene North. Climate Change and Nature in Art’ (2018) and ‘Jordforbindelser. Dansk maleri 1780– 1920 og det antropocæne landskab’ (2018). His PhD thesis ‘Skrig, Sult og Frugtbarhed’ (2012) explored the reception of Charles Darwin in works by J.P. Jacobsen, Knut Hamsun, J.F. Willumsen, Edvard Munch and August Strindberg.
This paper investigates concepts of plasticity and geotrauma, as elaborated by Catherine Malabou and Reza Negarestani. Malabou’s plasticity accounts for both productive and destructive change, and she has attempted to acknowledge new forms of woundedness that the present era entails, including not only climate change and other crises, but also the manner in which they traumatize the mind by producing planetary-scale cruelty and indifference. Her meditations on the geopolitics of trauma share a lot of ground with Reza Negarestani’s concept of geotrauma, which expands the conventional psychoanalytic theory of trauma to encompass cosmic, more-than-human forces that ultimately ground all thought in the non-human outside. The paper inspects how these two theories overlap, helping to make sense of the Anthropocenic wound, first, by setting the globe in a less anthropocentric perspective, and second, by demonstrating how traumas are nested, establishing a continuity of woundedness that extends from the cosmos to the brain. Such reformulation of suffering could help to reconfigure our notion of the globe in geotraumatic terms, indicating that the current ecological crisis is in fact a deep crisis of imagination, whose proper addressing in the humanities is a key challenge of our times.
Grzegorz Czemiel is Assistant Professor in the Department of English and American Studies at the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin, Poland. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Warsaw on the basis of a dissertation on Ciaran Carson’s poetry. His academic interests include contemporary poetry, speculative and weird fiction, translation studies as well as literary theory and philosophy, especially ecopoetics and speculative realism. Currently, he is developing the concept of “speculative cartography,” involving poetry as a geophilosophical mode of making cognitive maps. He also translates academic books and articles.
Contemporary institutional approaches to the challenges of post-humanist convergence require a change within the paradigm itself. According to Rosi Braidotti the posthuman convergence is linked with two major events affecting contemporary history: the cognitive capitalism based on social, decentralized production of knowledge as a basic factor of production, and the ecological catastrophe. This phenomenon is also connected with the alternating emotional states: excitement about the possibilities of technological development and anxiety about the consequences of an anthropocentric attitude which affects both human and non-human entities. This is why non-institutional research exploring alternative ways of producing and disseminating knowledge is playing an increasingly important role in creating the modern world and educating society. Discussing two examples of the transdisciplinary research projects: The Anthropocene and its continuation, Technosphere, initiated by the German National Museum, the Max Planck Society for the Promotion of Science and the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, I will analyse the methods by which the produced knowledge is transmitted to the society. As can be read on the project website:
A deep integration of cross-disciplinary thinking, mutual learning, new modes of research, and civic commitment seem key for the future of universities, academies, research platforms, and cultural institutions as situated spaces of knowledge production and its dissemination.2
By analysing the extensive databases created in the framework of the projects I will try to answer the questions: what is the range of knowledge transmission, how does the society learn about the conducted research, which media are used for this purpose, what determines their choice, how is the process of communication planning and what are the consequences of wide publicity for the research?
Oliwia Olesiejuk is a PHD Candidate in Doctoral School of the Humanities at Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland. As a member of Humanities/Art/Technology Research Center (UAM, Poznań, Poland) she took part in research project: FIELD REMEDIATIONS: SALVAGE, organized as part of the COP24 climate conference in Katowice. The project coordinated by Karolina Sobecki from Critical Media Lab Basel, co-created by Chris Woebken from New York University and members of HAT Research Center included interventions and coordination of the exhibition during Development & Climate Days Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center. Also in 2016 she co-created the project: Anaesthesia: Experimental Transopera by the Daed Baitz group belonging to HAT RC as part of the PLACÓWKA programme of the Zbigniew Raszewski Theatre Institute, Warsaw, Poland. She is currently researching ways of producing and distributing knowledge through transdisciplinary projects combining institutional and non-institutional units and the role of the artist in development of the new scientific research.
On the level of public discourse the unproper state of many planet ecosystems and the necessity to take measures seem to be accepted. The next step is probably even more difficult because it should be about real actions in the direction of changing the situation. A true diagnosis, as I.Stengers pointed out, «must have the power of a performative» (Stengers, Cosmopolitics I). The work of changing should be done now, in «the thick present» (Haraway, Staying with the trouble). Complementary to the deconstructionalist «work of mourning» (Derrida) or psychoanalytically rooted «working through» (Lyotard) this work under question is obviously to take into account the material basis of existence. But what exactly does it mean to follow the examples of microsystems that humans may take as a model? to penetrate the zones that were unaccessible without technical means? On the level of methodology it is important to clarify how this work developes from the iniciate point of manifesto(s) producing differences and demarcations, how it frames those who think «right». But the gray zone that deploys between separated camps, peculiarly uniting various entities «in the same space» and «at the same table», might reveal the new ways of collective wor Nina Sosna, PhD is associate professor at the Higher School of Economics (Moscow), senior researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences. She is the co-editor of Media between Magic and Technology (Мoscow, Ekaterinburg, 2014), and author of articles in Art Magazine, Art Journal, Criticism, Philosophy Journal, Studia Culturae, Siniy Divan and others. She also gave a series of public lectures at the «Garage» Contemporary Art Center (2016-2017) and Triumph Art Gallary (2017); a nominee of Innovation (2014) and Kandinsky Prize (2015).
One of the most powerful posthumanist messages for the human species living in anthropocentric times can be found in teachings and philosophy of Thich Nhat Hahn, a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, a peace activist, author of more than 100 books (i.e. Love Letter to Earth, 2013). According to his non-dualistic concept of interdependence, interbeing and interpenetration: ‘You carry Mother Earth within you. She is not outside of you. Mother Earth is not just your environment. In that insight of inter-being, it is possible to have real communication with the Earth […]. In that kind of relationship you have enough love, strength and awakening in order to change your life.’ My presentation will revolve around the root and key word ‘to carry”, for instance to show and reflect upon the planet’s carrying capacity. I will turn to Nhat Hahn’s essential writings to discover everyday practices that can be used and understood as forms of activism triggered in response to the environmental change. I will analyse how his teachings contribute to shaping environmental awareness on a planerary scale. In addition, I will also focus on the linguistic, symbolic and metaphoric dimensions of the gendered image of the Earth in his writings.
Monika Sosnowska is assistant professor in the British and Commonwealth Studies Department at the University of Łódź, Poland. Her publications include journal articles, chapters in books, co-edited books, and two monographs: Hamlet uzmysłowiony (University of Łódź, 2013) oraz From Shakespeare to Sh(Web)speare (2016) (University of Łódź, 2016). She is editorial assistant of Multicultural Shakespeare Translation, Appropriation and Performance (University of Łódź). She is a member of International Shakespeare Studies Centre (University of Łódź). Her research interests are posthumanist theories, green Shakespeare, ecology and ecocriticism, adaptation and performance.
Study of human-plant relations, which are the main object of ethnobotanical inquiry, has been focused for a long time on the uses of wild plants and their incorporation into local food ways and domestic medicine, revealing mostly anthropocentric and instrumental approach. Recent anthropological reflections quest such a vision trying not to reduce human-nature relations to economy, history or politics and focus on both embodiment engagement with the environment and the affinity established between humans and non-humans (Haraway 2008, Kirksey and Helmreich 2010,Kohn 2013, Tsing 2010, etc.).Today, if we take the posthumanism and multispecies ethnography’s postulates seriously (Kirksey, Schuetze, and Helmreich 2014) in our attempts to apprehend human-plant relations, we cannot focus only on how humans use plants for their needs and goals, but we have to admit the recursive nature of interactions between plants and people.
In the presentation, I am going to analyze human-wild plants relations in rural Belarus, understanding them as the results of “affective encounters” (Archambault 2016) and using the cases from the field studies conducted in Belarus in 2018-2019. This view, I believe, could shed a light on the issue of plants’ agency in human-plant interactions. Moreover, the attention to other then utility modes of human-plants interactions in nowadays rural Belarus, when food and drugs are available and people have more or less stable income, offers insight into how the affinity between human and environment they live in could be the main stimulus to interact with plants. Recognition of recursive and mutually transformative potential of human-plant interactions in the research could provide an alternative to the totalizing narratives of Anthropocene and to the ever expanding reach of capitalist and consumerism discourses.
Aliaksandra Shrubok is a PhD candidate at the International PhD Program “Nature-Culture” at the Faculty of “Artes Liberales” University of Warsaw, and a junior researcher at the Center for Belarusian Culture, Language and Literature Research of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. Her main research interests are human-plant relations, methodological and theoretical challenges of ethnobotanical research in post-soviet countries, and multispecies ethnography. In her current research on Belarusian local knowledge about wild plants she is trying to overcome anthropocentric paradigm of study of human-environment interactions and to investigate agency of plants in such interactions.
In Richard Powers’s 2018 novel The Overstory, the dendrologist Patricia Westerford argues that “A forest knows things.” The idea of root plasticity as “thinking” is not Powers’s new discovery; Katherine Hayles defined “unconscious cognition” as a neurological process distinct from “thinking” that extends to other life forms, including plants. Eduardo Kohn based his book How Forests Think on the premise of nonhuman cognition, and even earlier Alfred North Whitehead argued against the “bifurcation of nature” that separated objects from (human) subjects, promoting instead the sense of “prehension” that is a non-cognitive apprehension between everything in the universe. All of these conceptions show, as Donna Haraway says, that “a thinking forest is not a metaphor.” If thinking, or the lack of thinking that accurately reflects our reality, is one of the fundamental problems of the Anthropocene, then the challenge is to think more like a forest. My paper reevaluates human cognition in terms of forest thinking by taking seriously the “ragged edge of nature.” Ultimately, I argue that the challenge of the Anthropocene is embracing a type of speculative thinking that solves problems and makes decisions like a tree’s roots or the plant radicle Henry David Thoreau describes in Walden.
Thomas W. Howard is a Ph.D. student at Washington University in St. Louis studying 19th-century American literature, cognitive literary studies, and science studies.
A 11 In this presentation, I examine how British chemist James Lovelock (b. 1919) and American biologist Lynn Margulis (1938-2011) developed Gaia theory for scientific and general audiences from the 1970s onwards. I argue throughout that one of the key strategies employed by the two scientists was to emphasize how living matter behaves in animate, vital, autopoietic ways. Focusing on the role of metaphor and narrative structure in the inception and consolidation of Gaia theory, I draw on Bruno Latour’s actor-network theory (ANT) to analyze how the hypothesis enacts models of planetary symbiosis mingling the machinic and the organic, and how these have been incorporated into the concept of the Anthropocene. I begin by examining the reception history of Gaia theory in scientific publications, and its later circulation across popular science and mainstream media outlets, as Lovelock and Margulis continued to expand on their systematic approach to planetary ecology, supported by Margulis’s theory of endosymbiosis. In conjunction with Latour’s ANT, I deploy the vital materialisms of Jane Bennett to critically engage with Gaia narratives and metaphors of a lively planet, highlighting how physiological, biochemical, computational, and neurological models became embedded in the idea of an interconnected, responsive, sentient planet as an actant, with cognitive and sensory faculties of agency and selfregulation. Contrasting notions of Gaia and of the Anthropocene, I propose multispecies collaboration as a strategy for unruly living invested in a post/non/ahuman future.
Sofia Varino is a cultural historian based in Berlin. Her research participates in the transdisciplinary fields of body studies, technoscience studies, North American studies, visual culture and queer studies with a focus on cultural histories of knowledge production. She is currently based at Humboldt University in Berlin and will be a postdoctoral fellow at the minor cosmopolitanisms research group at Potsdam University from July 2020. Her work has recently appeared in Somatechnics, European Journal of Women’s Studies, and Women’s Studies Quarterly, among others. In her monograph Vital Differences: Indeterminacy & the Biomedical Body (Stony Brook University, 2017), she examined genealogies of immunological phenomena and proposed and eco-immunological model of embodiment. Her current book project considers the connections between health and environmental movements across the convoluted multispecies histories of the coronavirus pandemic. She holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies with a Certificate in Art & Philosophy from SUNY Stony Brook.
This talk is addresses the concept of “Geomedia.” While there is nothing straightforward or obvious about this term, at least part of the ambiguity stems from the wide range of media philosophy that has brought out different, and sometimes conflicting, aspects of geomedia—from the geo-materiality of our media devices (that is to say, media are made from the earth and return to it) to the abstract idea that the earth and the other elements mediate human and nonhuman life (which is to say, there is a primordial notion of media known as elemental media). This talk reframes the discourse on geomedia in terms of geo-communication technology, and more specifically, in terms of a little-recognized mode of geo-communication.
Of course, geocommunication technology is likely to call to mind geoinformational tools capable of aggregating, synthesizing and communicating complex geological, atmospheric, and infrastructural data to a variety of stakeholders concerned with planetary systems. Such a notion might also encompass satellite technologies—geostationary and low earth orbit (LEO) satellites, for instance—that have had important applications in weather forecasting, planetary telecommunications, defense and intelligence systems. One might also be inclined to think more broadly about geocommunication in terms of the multiple layers of planetary-scale computing, as well as the new systems of planetary governance that have emerged in their wake (Bratton). Whatever the case, geocommunication tends to call to mind notions of highly sophisticated computational technologies that gather, store, and process data about earth systems at a multiple spatial and temporal scales.
What we usually do not associate with geocommunication technologies are low-tech and/or analog methods for information transfer. And we certainly do not associate systems of oral communication that flourished in prehistoric and pre-modern eras with a modern technics of geocommunication. But that is exactly what I claim here, or more specifically, I demonstrate that myths about geological transformations and natural disasters are a part of the intellectual genealogy of modern geocommunicational media. In many ways this is new territory for the humanities and social sciences. While media researchers have become ever more attentive to the materiality of media systems (Cubitt, Parikka), and science studies has made room in its epistemologies for myth, magic, and other non-modern practices (Stengers, Latour), the humanities and social sciences have yet to see mythmaking as a geocommunicational technology.
In what follows, I flesh out connection by showing how a very specific information architecture underwrites the practices of the rapidly growing field of geomythology in the earth sciences; this is an architecture, I contend, that guarantees its participation in the long lineage of geocommunication technologies. What I go onto demonstrate, however, is that this genealogy presupposes a deeply problematic conception of information and noise that primes us to ask whether there are other communicative, or perhaps post-communicative, architectures for geomythic media. This will bring me to the conclusion of the talk where I gesture to how this proposal for geomediation is best framed in terms of a design proposition.
Adam Nocek is an assistant professor in the philosophy of technology and science and technology studies in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering at Arizona State University. He is also the founding director of the Center for Philosophical Technologies (also at ASU). Nocek has published widely on the philosophy of media and science; speculative philosophy (especially Whitehead); design philosophy, history, and practice; and critical and speculative theories of computational media. His monograph Molecular Capture: The Animation of Biology is forthcoming from the University of Minnesota Press. Nocek is currently working on two book projects: the first project addresses computational governance and the emergence of new regimes of design expertise, and the second project reimagines the role of mythology within speculative design philosophy. Nocek is the co-editor of The Lure of Whitehead (Minnesota), along with several other collections and special issues addressing speculative philosophy, technoscience, and design. He is also a visiting researcher at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis at the University of Amsterdam.
- Panel Introduction
- Anne Alombert: “Beyond the Anthropocene: from automatic societies to ‘anti-anthropic’ societies?”
- Michał Krzykawski: “Metastable Institutions: Conceiving and Conceptualizing Sustainabilities”
- Maël Montévil: “Entropies, organizations and their disruptions in biology”
It is impossible to effectively take up the challenges of the Anthropocene within the current macro-economic model which has become globalized over the last five decades. This claim goes far beyond the question of ideological/political convictions. It rather calls upon a rational necessity which requires us to theorize and experiment a new economic model, based on 20th century scientific advances: from thermodynamics, mathematics and biology to heterodox economy, philosophy of technology and social sciences.
In this panel we want to develop chosen theoretical stances and concepts which laid the groundwork for the economic, social and experimental approach to the Anthropocene, elaborated within Internation/Geneva2020 collective. Following the central assumption of this approach, we argue that what is generally referred to as the Anthropocene is characterized by a process of the massive increase of entropy in all its forms: thermodynamic entropy (climate change, mineral resource dispersal), biological entropy (biodiversity crisis, pandemic of non-communicable diseases in humans), information entropy (the so-called post-truth era) and, last but not least, psycho-social entropy (addiction, apathy and distrust of public institutions). Therefore, we describe the Anthropocene as Entropocene. The stake is not to produce just another “-cene;” instead, it is to characterize the nature of the core processes of the Anthropocene and their consequences: a massive increase of entropy. The second stake is to reopen a rational alternative to the Anthropocene within the Anthropocene.
Inasmuch as this rational alternative appears as a rational necessity, it requires us, however, to build new theoretical models and reconceptualize the relationship between scientific/academic practices and localities, approached in the light of thermodynamic constraints. We will try to show how it is possible to respond to this rational necessity by mobilizing the concepts of anti-entropy (Bailly, Longo, and Montévil), anti-anthropy/neguanthropy (Stiegler), and exosomatic evolution (Lotka, Georgescu-Roegen) in order to give a systemic account of the very notion of organization in relation to organic and inorganic matter (Schrödinger, Stiegler, Hui). We argue that this authentically transdisciplinary approach makes it possible to reinvent new social and economic models in order to defer the anthropogenic catastrophe.
“Beyond the Anthropocene: from automatic societies to ‘anti-anthropic’ societies?”. In 1945, at the end of WWII, a biologist called Alfred Lotka described the process of exosomatisation which, according to him, characterized humanity: contrary to other living beings, human beings do not only produce natural or endosomatic organs, but also need artificial, technical or exosomatic organs, which develop themselves at an exponential speed. In the 1970’s, the economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen explored the economic consequences of such a theory. He shows that contrary to endosomatic organs through which living beings produce low entropy (through organization and diversification), these exosomatic organs are ambivalent : they lower the level of entropy, but they also participate in increasing it. There is no industry without garbage : through production and consumption, human societies accelerate the process which leads the universe to its entropic disintegration.
This acceleration of the entropic becoming of the universe through the exosomatic evolution of human species had lead the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss to describe anthropology as an entropology, and it is also what lead the philosopher Bernard Stiegler to describe the Anthopocene as an Entropocene. From this analysis, we will nevertheless try to show that through the practice of all kind of knowledge (know-how, know how to live, theoretical knowledge), which produce social organization and improbable bifurcations, human technical beings, who are also desiring and noetic beings, can slow down and differ this entropic tendency. The practice of such knowledge should thus become the core of economy : not in order to transform knowledge into a market value (such as in cognitive capitalism) but to value the collective practices through which human beings take care of themselves and of their technical environments, and thus constitute anti-anthropic societies.
Anne Alombert is a PhD candidate in Philosophy at Paris Nanterre University. Her researches focus on the works of Gilbert Simondon, Jacques Derrida, and Bernard Stiegler, particularly on their philosophy of technology, and more generally, on the anthropological consequences of the contemporary digital transformation. She works at the Institute of Research and Innovation (Paris) in a contributory research program.
“Metastable Institutions: Conceiving and Conceptualizing Sustainabilities”. The organized human life without institutions—from the shaman to the United Nations—is unsustainable. However, in their current condition, institutions are largely unsustainable too. The systemic increase of entropy which characterizes the Anthropocene (here defined as the Entropocene) also stems from the crisis of institutions. A common approach to institutions and the way one thinks of their durability is, perhaps, still too Netwonian. “The duration or perseverance of the existence of things is the same, whether their motions are rapid or slow or null,” Newton argued in his Principia (1999, 410). But it seems that it is exactly the opposite: what make things persevere is their motions generated in a process of their continuous and infinite transformations inscribed in the finite things. These transformations make things infinitely appear different from themselves: if things still appear as perceptible forms, the latter are just a more or less temporary state in the infinite process of transformation.
Henceforth, the institutional challenge is to conceive this necessary temporariness as the very condition of the durability of institutions and conceptualize the institutional fact on a new basis. The aim of this presentation is to lay the groundwork for a new institutional theory, based on the concept of metastability as defined by the French philosopher Gilbert Simondon and in the context of the economic process as described by the Romanian heterodox economist Nicolas Georgescu-Roegen.
Michał Krzykawski, is associate professor and director of the Centre for Critical Technology Studies at the University of Silesia in Katowice. He has written extensively on contemporary French philosophy. His two books (in Polish), “Technics and the Soul. A Philosophical Essay for the Youth” and “The Condition of the Future. A New Report On Knowledge,” are forthcoming.
“Entropies, organizations and their disruptions in biology”. Why should we invest in the concept of entropy to face the challenges of the Anthropocene? Of course, entropy production is a more accurate description of physical processes than energy consumption – and the difference between the two concepts has applications. However, entropy has other ramifications. Living beings oppose entropy increase in two different ways. First, as emphasized by Schrödinger, living beings have to sustain a low entropy situation, and this implies that they are local, open systems. Second, while entropy increase leads to more generic configurations, biological individuation brings about the more specific organization, at the scale of evolution as well as shorter time scales. These specific organizations are precisely the way living being delay the increase of entropy. These counter-trends are analyzed as anti-entropy and anti-entropy production, respectively. We will show that they are damaged in the Anthropocene, meaning that biological organizations are disrupted, and their ability to reorganize is also weakened.
Maël Montévil is a theoretical biologist, working at the crossroad of experimental biology, mathematics, and philosophy. His work focuses on the theoretical foundations of biology, and the role that mathematics can play in this field. He also applies the general frameworks that he develops to current issues such as endocrine disruptors and more generally the Anthropocene. He currently works at the Institut de Recherche et d’Innovation in Prof. Stiegler’s team and in IHPST, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne on a project funded by the Cogito Foundation. His publication may be found at https://montevil.theobio.org/en
- Anna Adamowicz,
- Michał Gulik,
- Bogna M. Konior,
- Miłosz Markiewicz,
- Jakub Palm
Cyber-agriculture, also known as controlled environmental agriculture, vertical or urban farming, is one of the latest emerging technologies that connect the computer science background with the global changes in food management. As OpenAg convinces, their aim is to design open-source technology at the intersection of data acquisition, sensing and machine learning. Digitising the plant’s experience, its phenotype, the set of stress it encounters, and its genetics lets them build networked tools, open for everybody and fully useful.
Even though the aforementioned enterprise is just dawning, one can somewhat forecast its development and potential branching using philosophical and futurological tools. To define a given object is to recognise all of its constitutive characteristics—and as Anne-Françoise Schmid puts forward, the interdisciplinary approach begets means of transcending the limiting aspect of current definitions. To progress, an integrative object is to be created—a one that is conjured by speculation through elimination of certain constitutive parts.
Cyber-agriculture is a plant-growing format that employs contained environments where light, water, nutrients, temperature, and other climate variables are provided artificially under computer control. By recognising the technologies used in cyber-agriculture and analysing them as integrative objects, various development scenarios for the titular phenomenon are to be proposed.
A multidisciplinary team researching issues such as sociology of knowledge, transhumanism, xenofeminism, interrelations of ecology and technology, blockchain, posthuman (aest)ethics. They work together within a research project “Mediated Environments” led by prof. Agnieszka Jelewska and dr. Michał Krawczak (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań).
- Pauline Pedehour
- Aurélien Blanc
- Claire Gauzente
- Régis Dumoulin
- Benoît Pascaud
Donna Haraway (in Terranova, 2016) has humourously suggested the terms « Gnagnacene » or « Cthulhucene » as alternatives to the way too big word of Anthropocene. The heavy and depressing diagnosis of Gaia’s injuries has a strong potential for paralysis or, worse, for evil fascination (P.H. Castel, 2018). We hold that it should not imped us to step in here-and-now life and to generate alternatives with hedonic extensions (J. Hauser, 2019 ; Dance for plants). As suggested by Anna Tsing (2016) there is still room for sideways and unexpected flourisments at the margins of capitalism. While being conscious and critical thanks to the Marxist view but also to the Polanyian analysis, we need to grow and play alternatives such as degrowth, frugality and jugaad. Our interdisciplinary hybrid group composed of artists and scholars in literature, economics and management proposes to the audience of SLSAeu 2020 to play with a generative card deck that entails theoretical analysis, speculative thinking and performative gestures. While part of the rules and cards will be prepared in advance, we plan to build up together with the audience, whether human or non-human, in order to experience, play, write one (or more) plausible alternative, just as in Borges short story El jardín de los senderos que se bifurcan.
Pauline Pedehour is a PhD candidate specialized in environmental economics and water management, at University of Nantes (FR) and a musician.
Aurélien Blanc is a PhD candidate working on indoor air pollution related to individual behavior with an economical focus at the University of Angers (FR) and a musician.
Claire Gauzente is a Professor in Management Science, University of Nantes (FR), she is also a writer and visual artist.
Régis Dumoulin is a Professor in Management Science, University of Angers (FR), he is also a musician and sound artist.
Benoît Pascaud is a visual artist, born in 1959, specializing in printmaking. He is in charge of the printing workshop at the Nantes School of Fine Arts.
(6am CET, GMT+2)
The stories we tell about the world matter, but it is not always easy to know where to start them or what to call them. The stories we tell about the world matter, but it’s never easy to keep control of them. The stories about the world matter, and sometimes they contain sharks.
MARK BOULD is Reader in Film and Literature at UWE Bristol. He has authored and co-edited many books and articles in Film and Science Fiction Studies. He is currently working on a book The Anthropocene Unconscious.
‘[T]he Anthropocene itself can usefully be understood as a science fiction trope’, writes Ursula K. Heise in Imagining Extinction – The Cultural Meanings of Endangered Species. She convincingly argues that the particular power of the notion ‘resides not in its scientific definition as a geological epoch, but in its capacity to cast the present as a future that has already arrived’, which she, in turn, identifies as a quintessential function of contemporary science fiction. In this paper, focusing on contemporary speculative literature as well as ‘futurological’ scenario sketching, I want to think further about this understanding of the Anthropocene as a ground upon which a new kind of storytelling can take up.
My current research project Science Fiction, Fact & Forecast concerns itself with the interface between science fiction literature and futurology. In this framework, I examine short stories that read like SF, but are equally considered ‘scenarios’, ‘prototypes’ or similar tools for future thinking or even foresight. These texts are written by futurists as well as SF authors and are often commissioned and discussed by academic institutions, community organizers, private companies or think tanks of all kinds. Since this trend originated in the US, last winter, I travelled through Arizona and California and met various academics, futurists and writers who work in this field. At this year’s SLSAeu conference, I want to share the findings of this research trip and give insight in the main topics and forms of these science fictional scenario texts in respect to the ‘trope’ Anthropocene.
Julia Grillmayris a post doc researcher at the department of Cultural Studies at the University of Art and Design in Linz, Austria. She holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Vienna. Her current research project (post doc) Science Fiction, Fact & Forecast is funded by the Austrian Science fund FWF and investigates forms and strategies of scenario writing in contemporary SF literature and futurology. Furthermore, Grillmayr is a journalist and science communicator. She is responsible for the podcasts of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the University of Vienna as well as her own monthly radio broadcast Superscience Me – Wissenschaft und Fiktion on Radio Orange. The rest of her time, she spends in tap shoes and in the danubian wetlands.
In this paper, the sublime is used as the critical lens through which I conduct a rhetorical and narratological analysis of a series of contemporary U.S. literary texts. More specifically, with the aim of exploring new ways of analyzing environmental disruption or “wounds”, this paper examines the limits and affordances of using the “toxic sublime” (Peeples 2011), a redefinition of the notion of the sublime which emphasizes the tensions between appreciating awe-inspiring materialities and recognizing their toxic and life-threatening potential, but also other recent reappropriations of the sublime and approaches such as speculative pragmatism (Massumi 2011), in the study of literature and culture. Special attention is given to contemporary works such as Rachel Carson’s short story “A Fable for Tomorrow” (1962), Don DeLillo’s novel White Noise (1985), Susanne Antonetta’s Body Toxic: An Environmental Memoir (2001) and Maureen McHugh’s short story collection After the Apocalypse (2011),which revisit in various but related ways the relationship humans maintain with the nonhuman and with natural resources in the context of radical environmental change. Such analysis highlights new imaginative methods of representing materialities in the world we inhabit while providing cultural responses to the concepts of the Anthropocene and Capitalocene.
David Lombard studied Anglophone (especially U.S.) and Hispanic cultures and literatures at the University of Liège (Belgium) and received his master’s degrees in 2016 and 2017 (philology and didactics). Currently a lecturer in English at the University of Liège (Institut Supérieur des Langues Vivantes) and a Ph.D. candidate at the Liège-based research center CIPA (Centre Interdisciplinaire de Poétique Appliquée), his main fields of interests are American (literary) studies, ecocriticism, rhetoric, and narrative theory. His recent publications include a book of ecocriticism on Thoreau and his literary and philosophical legacy (Techno-Thoreau: Aesthetics, Ecology and the Capitalocene, Macerata: Quodlibet, 2019) and an article (“Thoreau and the Capitalocene”, Metacritic Journal for Comparative Studies and Theory, 4.2, 2018). David is currently carrying out a research project consisting in an comprehensive rhetorical and narratological analysis of the discourse of the sublime in a delimited corpus of contemporary U.S. literature.
If we are to heal from anthropocenic wounds, Marielle Macé tells us that it’s by finding new ways to love. Instead of biology that, though important, nonetheless reinforces some of the logics that led us to where we are, we need a biophilia. Finding new ways to love, because love is what will allow us to have a new relationship with nature. We need to imagine a love that is beyond the subject-object relation, which requires recognizing our fragility and a sense of the infinitude of the other: their imperfection (which is actually a perfection in Spinoza’s sense). Sloterdijk asked that we enter into a new dialogue with nature, through what he called homeotechnics, which evokes poetry for the sake of poetry, Mallarmé’s similia similibus (the same with the same), against any instrumental use (allotechnics). But further still, poetry is gesture, an immanent development and infolding, an opening to the exterior and impersonal, to the animal. I LOVE YOU INFINITELY MORE THAN THE SUM OF THE PARTS OF THE UNIVERSE is a philo-poetic reflection on this question from the point of view of human love that seeks to get past the subject-object relation, as well as being a reflection of this — in a language that is itself what it seeks to love, breaking the boundary between philosophy and poetry in view of a biophilial poetics.
Loumille Métros is based in Canada. They have a forthcoming experimental book at Punctum Books, Taunting the Useful, that develops a theory of the “virtual useless”. I LOVE YOU INFINITELY MORE THAN THE SUM OF THE PARTS OF THE UNIVERSE is part of another book project of that title.
This essay examines Possessing Nature (2015) and its focus on the Anthropocene from the margins, through the lenses of environmental and cultural histories in Mexico. As an environmental installation representing Mexico at the Venice Biennale in 2015, the project nods to Eduardo Galeano’s manifesto against European colonization (The Open Veins of Latin America, 1971), and Paula Findlen’s account of the role of colonized nature as key for European modernity (Possessing Nature, 1996). Possessing Nature traces the Anthropocene, as manifested in the current water crisis in Mexico City, to European colonialization, and the role of Venice as an early model of European expansion. It expands on this history via “submerged perspectives”, or decolonial epistemologies (Macarena Gomez-Barris) tracing to the constructive legacies of the historical Latin American avant-gardes. From this immersive perspective, Possessing Nature proposes reframing our conflicted cultural outlook about and instrumentalized relationship with water–that is to say, with nature.
Claudia Costa Pederson holds a Ph. D in Art History and Visual Studies from Cornell University. She is Associate Professor of Art History, in the School of Art and Design, Wichita State University, KS, US, and a curator for the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival, at Ithaca College, NY, US.
The Waste Land of T.S. Eliot was rooted in the conviction that the Western spirituality springs from the way people experienced the natural cycle of seasons. Eliot’s references to the vegetation deities enabled him to confront the celebration of life and spring with the image of a barren land which became the symbol of the spiritual condition of Europe at the beginning of the 20th century.
What happens to our understanding of the Western spirituality if the natural cycle is disturbed? How does the Anthropocene affect our symbolic imagination in this respect? Is there a deep, unconscious correlation between the environmental change and the secularization?
One of few poetic responses to these questions was given by a Welsh poet and an Anglican priest, R.S. Thomas (1913-2000), whose poetry suggests that the second half of the 20th century requires different religious narratives. In some of his volumes, the poet rewrites the crucial biblical myths in order to show how the climate change must inflict the change in stories about the creation or the birth and death of Jesus – the Christian vegetation deity.
The aim of my paper is to discuss – in a broad context – the new anthropocentric myths with which Thomas replaces some of the well-known biblical stories. I would like to present his opposition between the human and the non-human meaning both the natural and the sacred. I pay special attention to the wound in Christ’s side, which in Thomas’s poems becomes a universalized motif signifying a rupture at the heart of being in the most general terms. I would like to show, as well, how Thomas’s poetry influenced small Welsh communities of readers who organize “pilgrimages” in the bosom of nature combining Christian rituals with reading poetry aloud and nature worship.
Joanna Soćko, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Humanities in the University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland. She graduated Inter-Faculty Individual Studies in Humanities. She is a literary scholar with research interests focusing on comparative studies, storytelling and religious motifs in the 20th century literature. Her publications include articles on literary theory, post-secularism, the 19th and 20th century poetry, and the book on R.S. Thomas: Poezja (meta)fizyczna. Materialność w twórczości R.S. Thomasa [The (Meta)physical Poetry. Materiality in the Poems of R.S. Thomas] published in 2017 by The Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences.
The Kaiju movie genre, born in Japan as an effort to come to terms with the trauma of the atomic bomb, presents itself as pertinent to the context of the search for the new aesthetics in the Anthropocene. The similarities between the atomic age and the era of accelerating climate change have already been noted; both the atomic energy and global warming have been identified by Timothy Morton as hyperobjects. The legacy of Godzilla (2014, dir. Gareth Edwards) and Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019, dir. Michael Dougherty) and their success in imagining a new popular aesthetics remain unclear, particularly if one takes into account their mixed reception by critics and audiences alike. The aim of this presentation is to recount the critical debate around Anthropocenic representations in both new Godzilla movies and to try to make sense of many contradictions present both in the films themselves and in the discourse surrounding them. It appears that, through leaning into the metaphor of hyperobjects, the Godzilla films have inadvertently doomed themselves to represent and induce reactions of hypocrisy, weakness, and lameness characteristic for hyperobjects as theorized by Morton.
Filip Boratyn is a PhD student at the Doctoral School of Humanities, University of Warsaw. He has received his MA from the University of Warsaw’s American Studies Center. His research interests include cultural ecocriticism and studies of science fiction, comics, and comedy. His master’s thesis aimed to define the contemporary aesthetics of anti-comedy based on Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job! and the cinema of Rick Alverson. Filip Boratyn is currently developing his doctoral dissertation, which is going to examine the Anthropocenic enchantment in contemporary narrative media. He has recently received the 2020 David G. Hartwell Emerging Scholar Award from the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts for his paper “Magic(s) of the Anthropocene: Enchantment vs. Terroir in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach.”
In this presentation I will question how we might use the positive potential of the philosophical fable to imagine constructive new futures through which we can resist the ‘coming barbarism’ that theorists such as Isabelle Stengers articulate. I will question how fables can support the new narratives we need to create for our time, with reference to Anna Tsing’s claim in The Mushroom at the End of the World (2017) that, whilst, since the Enlightenment, Western Philosophers have thought of Nature as grand and universal yet also passive and mechanical, the backdrop and resource for the moral intentionality of humanity, who could tame and master Nature, ‘it was left to fabulists, including non-Western and non-civilizational storytellers, to remind us of the lively activities of all beings, human and not human.’ I will provide a brief overview of the way the fable has been discounted and disregarded, as children’s literature, misleading, fictional and associated with despots, and progress to outlining a counter to these narratives that highlights the philosophical fables potential in our catastrophic time. Examining recent work by Donna Haraway, Jan Zalasiewicz and James Lovelock, I will endeavour to show how theorists concerned with debates surrounding the Anthropocene are using strengths of the genre. Throughout, I will also draw from Chris Danta’s considerations in Animal Fables after Darwin: Literature, Speciesism, and Metaphor (2018)concerning the effects of Darwin’s revelations, examining how these changed our conception of ourselves in ways that have since been highlighted in animal fables. Ultimately, I will argue that philosophical fables offer a way to transcend species exceptionalism, and have roots in the eighteenth century Italian poet and philosopher Giacomo Leopardi’s work the Operette Morali, where he used the genre to critique the anthropocentricism he perceived to be problematic within the Western Tradition, as highlighted by Antoni Negri in The Flower of the Desert (2016) and the thought of Emanuele Severino.
I am completing my PhD in the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy at Kingston University examining the environmental catastrophe and philosophical fables, particularly in the work of Donna Haraway and Giacomo Leopardi, which I have been invited to submit to Bloomsbury as a book proposal.
The paper examines recent eco-aesthetic interventions by the video artist Ursula Biemann (Acoustic Ocean, 2018) and the visual artist Matthew Barney (Redoubt, 2019) from the point of their deployment of animism as a modality of contemporary sustainable post-media in the Anthropocene. Thinking with Deleuze and Guattari, I will argue that this animism encapsulated in the figure of the hunt does not signify a return to nature but is bound up with a naturalcultural technics flush with the body of the earth. I would like to conclude by proposing these cinematic interventions, which affirm a more-than-human, or ahuman, modality of time, as examples of the cinema of the future. This animist post-cinema might be labelled a Deleuzian ‘third cinema’, in the sense of modulating both the Deleuzian movement-image and the time-image.
Radek Przedpełski graduated from Trinity College Dublin with a PhD in Digital Art and Humanities, researching the problem of metamorphosis in Eastern European neo-avant-garde intermedia of the 1970s and their untimely connections with pre- and early modern art. He also has an MA in Digital Media from Dublin Institute of Technology. Together with Steve Wilmer he organised at TCD an international conference on Art in the Anthropocene (2019) where he curated a thematic block on post-cinema, Deleuze and art (2016) and a symposium on Deleuzian aesthetics and multiplicity (2018). He is the editor, together with Steve Wilmer, of an edited volume on Deleuze, Guattari and the Art of Multiplicity forthcoming from Edinburgh University Press in 2020. He teaches visual culture and digital media at his alma mater. He is also a sound artist and freelance photographer. Radek collaborated with the artistic collective Slavs and Tatars as a researcher for their Naughty Nasals project.
“Bodies Insufficiently Fresh” is a narrative rendition of human devastation of the planet which was later turned into a a video project called “SHAME”
As part of the apocalyptic tradition, Emmett’s video confronts us with the human impact on the natural landscape to reveal the continued toll humans leave on the planet. The work encompasses oil fields, deforestation, genocide in the Amazon rainforest, toxic waste sites, forests ravaged with fire and flooding. Emmett’s protest video presents a series of terminal landscapes as an incitement toward a more critical view of power relations that influence our notions of the natural terrain as valuable natural resource. At the same time an unnerving soundscape drives the viewer from one environmental degradation to the next. Gradually, the video falls into a tableau of surreal black water images, depicting a state of melancholy. It becomes clear that we cannot escape a prognosis of dwindling resources and the rise in catastrophic global warming.
SHAME was premiered with a live performance at Oxo Tower Wharf, London, ‘Mars & Beyond’ 2020.
Emmett is a neo-noir architect who disrupts the original use and perception of buildings. Drawing upon intermedia disciplines spanning video, sound and digital performance, Emmett infects architectural spaces with an altered sense of reality. Addressing both destructive and redemptive themes in society today, his work reveals multilayered references to the continual study of the Isenheim Altarpiece.
Emmett collaborates with Kraftwerk co-founder Eberhard Kranemann, Candoco Dance Company founder Adam Benjamin, Node electronics composer Dave Bessell and architectural theorist Charles Jencks. In June 2016, Tate Modern London, Emmett performed Sender/Receiver at the opening of the Blavatnik Building.
Emmett holds a Doctorship in situated cognition, studied at the Architectural Association, Bartlett School of Architecture, Central St Martins and in 2007 studied space music under Karlheinz Stockhausen, Kürten.
- Kaisa Kortekallio: “Speculative Thought and Experimental Reading”
- Hanna-Riikka Roine: “Speculative Collaborations of Narratives and Models”
- Esko Suoranta: “Speculation as Social Criticism: The Case for Technonaturalism”
- Marco Caracciolo: “Formal Experiments and Uncertain Futures”
- Shannon Lambert: “Experimenting with Experiments: Science, Narrative, and Knowledge in Contemporary ‘Lab Lit’”
- Gry Ulstein: “Weirding the Narrative: New Weird Formal Experiments”
How can narrative help us understand the Anthropocene? Research in science communication foregrounds narrative’s power to translate abstract scientific models into emotional experiences that could (re)shape people’s attitude toward the ecological crisis. This instrumentalizing take on narrative is echoed by scholars in the field of ecocriticism, whose arguments often rest on the cultural influence of genres such as dystopia and climate fiction. At the same time, the utility of narrative–and narrative studies–has been questioned by scholars such as Claire Colebrook and Timothy Clark, who argue that storytelling cannot adequately grasp the spatio-temporal scales and complex causalities of the Anthropocene.
This panel enters these debates by considering the epistemological value and limitations of narratives, as well as their instrumental use. We argue that the impact of story cannot be reduced to a matter of direct psychological influence; rather, it follows a more roundabout route. The panel explores two interrelated concepts that are central to narrative engagements with the Anthropocene: speculation and experimentation.
Speculation in both dystopian and utopian modes has been foregrounded as “a method for thinking the present otherwise” by thinkers such as Zygmunt Bauman, Raffaella Baccolini, and Brian McHale. Experimentation is a broad concept that spans from the scientific method to the testing of new technologies and experimental practices in literature and the arts. We’ll discuss how experimental narrative offers new tools to channel the complexity and nonlinearity of the Anthropocene.
The papers presented by Kortekallio, Roine, and Suoranta, and will focus on speculation, while Caracciolo, Lambert, and Ulstein will address experimentation. In this way, we aim to contrast these concepts and explore their overlap as a step toward a nuanced account of how narrative can intervene in contemporary Anthropocene discourse. We propose to present these contributions in the form of a double panel.
“Speculative Thought and Experimental Reading”. The Anthropocene frames humanity as a collective agent and a material force. As Timothy Clark has argued in Ecocriticism on the Edge (2015), acknowledging this shift in scale forces literary criticism to reassess its basic assumptions. The focus of literary criticism has traditionally been on the subjective experience of characters and readers. In light of the devastation caused by the “Anthropocene Leviathan”, such a focus seems inadequate and even misleading.
In this presentation, I attempt to both acknowledge the challenge Clark presents and reclaim the usefulness of subjective experience in literary analysis. In the Anthropocene, the circulation of conventional narratives of personal change (via e.g. eco-spiritual awakening) cannot suffice. Nevertheless, experiential narratives in experimental modes can develop readers’ sensitivities to the unfamiliar and the unknown, strengthening their capacities for responding to rapid socioecological changes. I argue that the development of such capacities is very much a matter of literary-critical methodology: the Anthropocene necessitates that we learn to attune to unusual and implausible experiential patterns that challenge individual subjectivity.
Such patterns are often foregrounded by speculative fiction. As examples, I will discuss the experientiality of being programmed (when reading Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl) and contaminated (when reading Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation).
Kaisa Kortekallio is a PhD candidate (defense in February 2020) at the Department of Languages, University of Helsinki, and affiliated with the research consortium “Instrumental Narratives” (Academy of Finland, 2018 – 2022). Her dissertation examines how contemporary ecological speculative fiction estranges and reconfigures embodied aspects of subjective experience. The topics of Kortekallio’s other publications include posthuman subjectivity in cyberpunk (2014), estranging first-person narration in Jeff VanderMeer’s and Timothy Morton’s work (2019), and seasonal mood in reading Paolo Bacigalupi’s climate fiction (forthcoming 2020).
“Speculative Collaborations of Narratives and Models”. As a method for thinking the present otherwise, speculation enables our possibility-oriented thinking. Both hopeful and apocalyptic speculative scenarios dominate our cultural imagination. Although such scenarios constantly affect our social and political decisions and our understanding of ourselves as human beings, speculation is rarely investigated in relation to other meaning-making practices.
In literary studies focusing on our engagement with the possible, narrative is often given the precedence. Furthermore, economics stills holds the position of the primary field for modelling how humans construct their future. The situation is remarkable especially for the reason that the alliance between the present-day states of affairs and possibility-oriented imaginaries is most fully realized in speculative fiction.
This presentation, first, discusses the strategies of narrative and modelling, and then brings them together under the third strategy, speculation, drawing on the resources of both of them. While the appeals to individual, experience-based authority are both the strength and limitation of narrative, models can closely connect with factually based assumptions at the expense of experiential appeal. Through fictional case studies addressing our relationship to climate crisis, I argue for making a clear distinction between narrative and speculation as distinct, but complementary ways to engage with the possible.
Hanna-Riikka Roine (PhD, literary studies) works as a Core Fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies and researcher in the consortium “Instrumental Narratives” (Academy of Finland, 2018–2022). So far, Roine’s work has engaged with the role of narrative in complex environments that integrate more than one medium, narrative’s relationship to other forms of meaning-making, and the ways in which users engage with art and entertainment after the digital turn. She has also contributed to the study of the rhetoric of contemporary speculative fiction and worked as the editor-in-chief of Fafnir – Nordic Journal for Science Fiction and Fantasy Research.
“Speculation as Social Criticism: The Case for Technonaturalism”. Kiely and O’Brien have found in contemporary speculative fiction a budding subgenre of “science friction,” where SF’s techno-optimism is replaced by a focus on precarity and stagnation under intensified capitalism. This focus relates to an emerging tendency I call technonaturalism, that is, fictionin which the material, economic, and social realities of digital capitalism in the Anthropocene are of central interest and targets of interrogation.
In my paper for the double-panel “The Value of Narratives in/of the Anthropocene: Between Speculation and Experimentation” at Anthropocenes 2020, I argue that technonaturalist novels employ specific strategies of speculation that give rise to their socio-critical potential. Analyzing the novels of William Gibson, Nick Harkaway, Tim Maughan, and Annalee Newitz, I aim to show technonaturalism as negotiating the oft-incommensurable human and systemic scales of Anthropocene narratives. The novels’ socio-critical aspects are shown to arise from thought experiments foregrounding the material underpinnings of contemporary societies, scenario-building around multicausal ecological and social crises, the literalization of metaphors of financial speculation; and a skepticism toward traditional post-apocalypse narratives.
Esko Suoranta is a PhD candidate at the Department of Languages, University of Helsinki, and affiliated with the consortium “Instrumental Narratives” (Academy of Finland, 2018–2022). He is also a co-editor-in-chief for Fafnir – Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research. Esko’s dissertation analyzes the ways in which contemporary speculative fiction might build cognitive affordances for thinking toward systemic phenomena like digital capitalism. His publications address power, agency, and transhumanity in the contemporary novels of William Gibson (2014, 2016), surveillance capitalism in Malka Older’s Infomocracy (2018), and utopian/dystopian dynamics in Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge (forthcoming 2020).
“Formal Experiments and Uncertain Futures”. The field of econarratology (Erin James’s coinage) has so far focused on the narrative imagination of space and how it can expand readers’ environmental awareness. In this paper I turn to narrative time and discuss experimentations with temporality as a window onto the uncertainty of our climate future. I show that narrative can effectively channel the open temporality of the Anthropocene by disrupting and deviating from a linear chronology. My main case study is Controller by Jesse Kellerman, a novella that juxtaposes several scenarios focusing on the same two characters (a young man and his mother) at different degrees of warming. Through my commentary on this text and the affective dynamics it elicits in readers, I argue that formal experiments are key to understanding narrative’s power to engage with the climate crisis and the complexity of our Anthropocenic moment.
Marco Caracciolo is an Associate Professor of English and Literary Theory at Ghent University in Belgium, where he leads the ERC Starting Grant project “Narrating the Mesh.” Marco’s work explores the phenomenology of narrative, or the structure of the experiences afforded by literary fiction and other narrative media. He is the author of four books, including most recently Embodiment and the Cosmic Perspective in Twentieth-Century Fiction (Routledge, 2020). His new book, Narrating the Mesh: Form and Story in the Anthropocene (University of Virginia Press), is forthcoming in 2021.
“Experimenting with Experiments: Science, Narrative, and Knowledge in Contemporary ‘Lab Lit’”. In this paper, I consider ‘experiments’ in literature in terms of content and form, looking at the ways in which ‘lab lit’—a subset of fiction exploring scientific persons, practices, and processes in realistic settings—translates abstract scientific phenomena into the fleshy, limited, experience of being human. Yet, as I will argue, far from using science as setting, formal strategies employed by ‘lab lit,’ such as paradox, lively description, analogy, metaphor, and synecdoche cross disciplinary boundaries allowing ‘lab lit’ to critically engage with Western scientific epistemology. Here, I give brief examples from representations of botany and biomedicine (Richard Powers’ The Overstory and Hanya Yanagihara’s The People in the Trees, respectively) to demonstrate how the novels’ deployment of analogy and ‘lively description’ problematise illusions of scientific autonomy, neutrality, and control—illusions in need of critical scrutiny both within laboratories and in the Anthropocene world of which they are part.
Shannon Lambert is a PhD researcher at Ghent University, Belgium. She is a member of the ERC-funded project “Narrating the Mesh” (NARMESH), led by prof. Marco Caracciolo. Her work within the NARMESH project draws together narrative and affect studies to explore different forms of relationality in representations of contemporary science. Her work on topics such as interspecies communication, early modern automatons, and narrative transformations appear in PUBLIC, Cahiers Voor Literatuurwetenschap, and (co-authored) in SubStance.
“Weirding the Narrative: New Weird Formal Experiments”. This paper argues that paying attention to experiments with narrative form can be particularly helpful for showcasing the Weird’s affinity for representing Anthropocene issues. Weird fiction tends to point out and puncture the thin membrane between reality and the fantastic. Thematically, this irruption of the supernatural into the everyday is one of the central points of dramatization in the Weird. In recent years, this theme has been picked up on by literary scholars interested in the Weird as a response to the often disorienting reality of the Anthropocene. However, although approaches to the ecocritical potential of the Weird include a wide variety of critical angles and focus on form as well as content, little attention has been given to the Weird’s experimental side. Works by contemporary writers like Jeff VanderMeer and China Miéville often experiment with form and content together, using techniques such as metalepsis, repetition, and temporal and spatial instability to reinforce the thematic collapse of the supernatural into the real. In this paper I will discuss examples of such formal experimentation in VanderMeer’s Dead Astronauts (2019) and Miéville’s The City and The City (2009), and Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book (2013). My analysis will demonstrate how contemporary writers combine experimental formal techniques to reflect the collapse of boundaries in times of uncertainty and environmental disaster.
Gry Ulstein is a PhD candidate at Ghent University in Belgium where she is a member of the ERC-funded project “Narrating the Mesh” (NARMESH), led by prof. Marco Caracciolo. Gry is particularly interested in contemporary weird literature as an expression of ecological anxieties, and lately her work has centred on questions of agency, hope, and monsters in Jeff VanderMeer’s fiction.
- Tony Valberg: “Togetherness – Vibrant Matter Collective: Modelling Possible Universes”
- Shé M. Hawke: “A Critical Need for Environmental Literacy: Re-Wilding Human Consciousness”
- Reingard Spannring: “Subjective Experience As The Basis For Connectivity And Respect In A More-Than-Human World?”
- Martin Hauberg-Lund Laugesen: “Teaching and Learning in the Great Outdoors: On the Pedagogical Potential of Speculative Realism”
If nature is not recognized as a sentient and rational creator and conveyor of knowledge, and/or a wonder and/or a dialogue partner, do we then risk continued failure in our duty of care to planetary stewardship? Or put differently: is it perilously ‘ego-centric’ for humans to believe they are the only species capable of pedagogical exchange – of narrativization? Could ideas like ‘bewildering education’ (Snaza 2018) ‘decentering the human’, ‘environmental literacy’, ‘re-newed connections with more-than-human worlds’, ‘re-wilding human consciousness’, and knowledge emerging from the ‘natural library’ (Hawke 2012) be fruitful in this regard? Or more generally: How can non-humans be included and understood in pedagogical activities, not only as objects of study, but also as agents in their own right? But how can we acquire experiences of how to share the world we live in with radical others? If for instance one thinks differently about the ontology of music, will suggestions for other procedures regarding learning, practising and performing music occur? Will we stop muting sounds not originating from humans, and free us from anthropocentric notions of “good taste”? Could also examinations of the construction of human-animal relations in educational contexts, the shortcomings of dominant anthropocentric pedagogies and the transformative opportunities offered by alternative frameworks such as ecojustice and humane education be fruitful here? Or examinations of how educational institutions are embedded in the animal industrial complex, which requires cooperation across disciplinary boundaries to transform education and schooling?
“Togetherness – Vibrant Matter Collective: Modelling Possible Universes”. For six months an extended neighbourhood, including some artist and researchers, established a temporary society for half a year that experimented with decentring the relationship between human, other living organisms and matter. We were asking: How can we acquire experiences of how to share the world we live in with radical others? We dreamed of, and actually were able to establish, a relationship through song with the beautiful, gloving microorganism phosphorescence. In another part of the project the Vibrant Matter Ensemble asked: If one thinks differently about the ontology of music, will suggestions for other procedures regarding learning, practising and performing music occur? Will we stop muting sounds not originating from humans, and free us from anthropocentric notions of “good taste”? The presentation will report from this attempt in a Norwegian neighbourhood to break away from established anthropocentric configurations of the sensible and possible, blurring the boundaries between art, education and activism.
Some theoretical contributors to the presentation:
Cornelius Cardew, Henrietta L. Moore, Rosi Braidotti, Giorgio Agamben, Jane Bennett.
Tony Valberg(Ph.d.) is a musician and professor in Music Pedagogy at the Institute of Music, Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Agder (UiA), Norway. Valberg, who has led a number of relational art projects, has in recent years established temporary small communities in search of an environmental awareness that allows relationships to extend beyond human intersubjectivity. Valberg is a leader of the research group Art and Social Relations. More on his latest project at https://togethernessvmc.com
“A Critical Need for Environmental Literacy: Re-Wilding Human Consciousness”. This paper argues for the recognition of nature as both a sentient and rational creator and conveyor of knowledge. If the concept of nature’s capacities is not expanded, (or re-wilded), the human species risks continued failure in its duty of care to planetary stewardship, as the fall-out from the Anthropocene already shows. It is perilously ‘ego-centric’ for humans to believe they are the only intelligent species capable of pedagogical exchange – of narrativization. The methodology of environmental literacy born from my earlier work on ‘water literacy’ (Hawke 2012) seeks to decentre the human and invite all actors into inter-species and elemental dialogue through deep listening and re-newed connection with more-than-human worlds. Environmental literacy presents an opportunity to re-write and co-create ‘eco-centric’ habits as the new norm, with the youngest of citizens, and through a pedagogy of entanglements in the spectrum of natural and cultural life. Re-wilding human consciousness may liberate unsustainable habits and practices and recreate space for learning from the ground upwards in the ‘natural library’ (Hawke 2012) that nature is. This paper addresses the anthropocentric provocations of human recklessness, and the will-full damage caused by the human enterprise, which falls uneasily on the ledger of sustainability and calls for a complete re-vision of how and what we think we and others know.
Dr Hawke is Head of Mediterranean Institute for Environmental Studies, Science and Research Centre, Koper Slovenia. She is also an Honorary Associate at the University of Sydney, Australia, Department of Gender and Cultural Studies, where she taught from 2005-2013. She is co-investigator with Dr Spannring and Prof. Škof on the (ARRS J7- 1824) project – Surviving the Anthropocene: Through Inventing New Ecological Justice and Biosocial Philosophical Literacy. Her book Aquamorphia: falling for water, appeared in 2014 (Interactive Publications, Brisbane), and was nominated for the Australian Prime Ministers Literary Award for Poetry.
“Subjective Experience As The Basis For Connectivity And Respect In A More-Than-Human World?”. The unfolding of the ecological disaster has led authors to reconsider the position of the human subject and his/her relationship with the earth. Environmental educators often propose subjective experience in and with nature as an important learning space for environmental consciousness and environmentally friendly behaviour. However, in the context of consumer society it is less clear what subjective experience is and whether/how the nonhuman world would benefit from it.
This paper brings ecocentric and zoocentric work in environmental education research into dialogue with a fundamental critique of consumption as a way of being in and relating to the world. In particular, it foregrounds processes of objectiﬁcation and commodiﬁcation, and their impacts on human and nonhuman subjectivity and the possibility of care within a more-than-human community. From this perspective, eco-pedagogy seeks to liberate humans, nonhumans and elemental beings from predetermined behavioral results and functions, and opens the time and space for the subjectiﬁcation of humans, nonhumans and elemental beings within the complex dynamics of a more-than-human community. With this proposition, the paper contributes to an ecocentric understanding of education that builds on the continuity of life and subjective experience.
Reingard Spannring is a sociologist working as lecturer and researcher at the Institute for Education Science, University of Innsbruck, Austria. Her main fields of interest are critical animal studies, environmental education research, environmental sociology and philosophy of education.
“Teaching and Learning in the Great Outdoors: On the Pedagogical Potential of Speculative Realism”. Since its official inception in 2007, speculative realism (SR) has bourgeoned as a philosophical movement. Especially the branch of SR known as object-oriented ontology (OOO) has established itself as an innovative and timely philosophical position with obvious relevance in light of the present historical situation. In my presentation I will elaborate what I take to be the central pedagogical and didactical value of SR in general and OOO in particular. I will suggest that a radical rethinking of contemporary educational practices is called for by the new vistas of reality ushered in by the concept of the Anthropocene as the suggested name for the current geological epoch of the Earth. I will propose that SR and OOO are vital philosophical resources to draw on in order to carry out such a rethinking and in particular I will engage the thinking of Quentin Meillassoux, Graham Harman, Timothy Morton and Ian Bogost. On the basis of my co-authored book Dark Pedagogy: Education, Horror & the Anthropocene from 2019, ‘dark pedagogy’ will be invoked as a fitting name for new pedagogical practices suited for teaching and learning about the central predicaments of the Anthropocene, e.g. global warming and the 6th mass extinction.
Martin Hauberg-Lund Laugesen is a philosopher and currently employed as a PhD student in education science at the University of Southern Denmark. In recent years Martin has been the leading author of the first book-length introduction to speculative realism to appear in a Scandinavian language (Spekulativ realisme: En introduktion) and has, most recently, co-authored the book Dark Pedagogy: Education, Horror & the Anthropoceneon Palgrave. Besides that, Martin likes vegetarian food, communal singing and tramping in the great outdoors. Martin’s academic profile at USD: https://portal.findresearcher.sdu.dk/da/persons/mhl/publications/
Where the Soul Is – an audiovisual projected created by Pigeon Break (Michał Paduch – elektronics, sample, bas), Lód 9 (Michał Zdrzałek – French horn, synthesizers), Maciek Klich – electric violin and Rafał Włodarek – visuals. It is a journey across the horizon of the human condition for which there are no maps – only music and its guiding system.
HIPNOZA is a legendary jazz club in Katowice, Poland that over past thirty years have hosted Jazz virtuosos from all over the world.
(6am CET, GMT+2)
The Anthropocene is the outcome of an antibiotic mode of managing life, characterised by systemic efforts to eradicate, control and simply ecological systems. This rationalisation of life has enabled a specific and selective mode of human flourishing. But it comes at a cost. Across a range of scales, we are now experiencing Anthropocene blowback: the intensified emergence of pathogenic and dangerous risks, from pandemics to extreme weather. In response to these risks, a growing range of scientists, citizens and politicians are experimenting with probiotic approaches to managing life. Probiotic approaches use life to manage life; introducing ecologically significant, ‘keystone species’ to deliver desired functions and services. Examples range from rewilding to tackle biodiversity loss and climate change in the countryside to microbiome restoration for gut and soil health. These interventions involve target programmes of ‘controlled decontrolling’. This lecture provides an overview of these developments, reflecting on the specific mode of biopolitics they perform, and the unequal implications of the probiotic turn for the human and nonhuman lives it governs and neglects.
Jamie Lorimer is associate professor of geography and the environment at Oxford University. His research interests encompass cultural geography, the geographies of science, the politics of Nature and wildlife conservation. He is the author of Wildlife in the Anthropocene: Conservation after Nature (2015).
In the era of global calamity, we watch climbers climb for more — and weirder — reasons than the pleasure of their athleticism.
In 1923, a reporter asked George Mallory why he wanted to summit Mount Everest. “Because it’s there,” Mallory’s cryptic reply, became the most loved quote in climbing history. The real game changer, however, was the reporter’s question itself. It announced to the world that mountaineering—once a solitary niche practice—had an audience, a public that was not only watching but also wanted answers, access to truths about life to which climbing seemed to hold the key.
Today the question why do this? is included in nearly every mountaineering story or interview. Meanwhile, interest in climbing is steadily on the rise, from commercial mountaineering and climbing walls in university gyms and corporate workplaces to the flood of spectacular climbing imagery in corporate advertising, cinema, and social media. Climbing has become the theater for imagining limits—of the human body and of the planet— and the nature of desire, motivation, and #goals. Is that 100 year old question still an expression of serious interest in mountains and mountaineering? Or is it a symptom of an ever-deeper well of uncertainty about why anyone does anything at all? What is the future of this pursuit – marred by its colonial history, continuously coopted by nationalistic chauvinism and the capitalist compulsion to unlimited growth?
MARGRET GREBOWICZ is the author of Whale Song (Bloomsbury), The National Park to Come (Stanford), and Why Internet Porn Matters (Stanford), and co-author of Beyond the Cyborg: Adventures with Donna Haraway (Columbia). Currently an independent scholar, she lives in rural upstate New York. Her most recent articles have appeared in the minnesota review, Environmental Humanities, The Routledge Handbook of Gender and Environment, The Philosophical Salon, and The Atlantic. Originally from Poland, she has held professorships at the University of Houston-Downtown and Goucher College, U.S., and the University of Tyumen, Russia, as well as a Leverhulme Trust fellowship at the University of Dundee, U.K. Current projects include the coedited collection Lyotard and Critical Practice, forthcoming from Bloomsbury, and her new book, Mountains and Desire, to be published by Repeater in 2021.
Pishku is an interdisciplinary collaboration with the biology department at the Catholic University of Quito to adapt their platform Bioweb.bio for children. Bioweb.bio is the largest repository of information on Ecuadorian biodiversity and provides access to a database of 9000 species and a vast library of multimedia elements, including more than 280,000 images and audio files. Ecuador is the most biodiverse country in the world per area, so it presents an exemplar sample for observing and tracking species at risk of extinction. The work aims to use digital interaction to facilitate learning through constructivist theories in the context of STEM education. The presentation will cover the first phase of the project, where I interviewed Juan Freile who directs the Bioweb birds group. His ornithological work focuses on the distribution, diversity, and conservation of Ecuador’s birds. In 2019, he published the ‘Lista Roja de las Aves de Ecuador’ to track species which are in danger of extinction. I will share my ideas of why it is relevant to use an interdisciplinary approach between art and science in the education of birds’ conservation. My analysis will be based on Richard O. Prum’s theories from his book ‘The Evolution of Beauty’.
“In the natural apiary”, filmed together with natural beekeeper Danilo Colomela in the island of Sicily (Italy), is an immersive cinematic experience into the practice of natural beekeeping. Through experimental aesthetics, the film aims to sensorially explore the landscape of the natural apiary and the human engagement with the more-than-human world of Apis Mellifera.
Michał Krawczyk is a PhD candidate at Griffith University (Brisbane, Australia) within the field of Environmental Humanities. His work combines ethnography with cinema, and he is currently developing an ethnographic project to be lived with two families practicing permaculture in Italy and Australia. His first film ‘Yuyos’ (2018), co-directed with Giulia Lepori (PhD candidate at Griffith University), has been screened worldwide through 2018-2019. Their new visual project ‘LAND/SCAPE’, a multispecies collaboration between donkeys and humans is currently being submitted to film festivals. For more info on Michał’s work please visit: https://vimeo.com/earthcare
In the present paper, I will discuss how the mourning of the loss of centered agency has to be confronted with the vegetariat – the contemporary matters of resistance through the plants’ resilience exercised in the art by Špela Petrič. I will argue that the loss of fixed and autonomous agency that we have been mapping through the theories of flat ontologies of anthropocenes, has been actualised into what the artists Špela Petrič after Catriona Sandilands names in her work vegetariat. The question is thus not how to imagine different agencies, or how to capture them, but how to live and raise within their mutations. How to condition multiple agencies and their risky contaminations in order to care before them? The resistance begins with the acknowledging that we are already vegetariat – multiplicity of commons that thrive on contamination. Through discussing the art of Petrič, this paper will thus further analyse how enacting the contaminating relationality of asymmetric dependence, conditions the very movement of the resistance that becomes the ethics within commons. In other words, how to care and become responsible before the multiple that might kill us, exhaust us and multiply us?
Agnieszka Anna Wołodźko is a lecturer at the Centre for Arts in Society at Leiden University and lecturer and researcher at AKI Academy of Art and Design, ArtEZ where she established and coordinates BIOMATTERs, an artistic research program that explores how to work with living matters. Her research focuses on posthumanism and intersection between art, ethics and biotechnology. She is an artistic and a public curator of exhibitions and events on art working with living matters and art and science relations. Her recent relevant publications are: “Forgotten Rituals of Yearning,” Capacious: Journal for Emerging Affect Inquiry; “Materiality of affect. How art can reveal the more subtle realities of an encounter,” in This Deleuzian Century: Art, Activism, Life (eds.) Rosi Braidotti and Rick Dolphijn; currently working on her book “Bodies within Affect. Practicing Contaminating Matters through Bioart.”
An involvement with dead plants plays a vital role in several non-camera photographic projects on which I will draw: PLANTLINE by the Trio Organiczne (Organic Trio), Chernobyl Herbarium by Anaïs Tondeur and plant radiography by Joanna Stoga. In my text, I would like to explore the phenomenon of intimacy-with-the-dead in the context of non-camera plant photography.
The optical apparatus essential for camera photography creates distance between the photographed and the photographer. I believe that the case is different with non-camera techniques. Some of them, such as anthotypes, chemigrams, rayograms, or radiography, are based on immediate bodily contact between the plant and the human. Instead of close-ups, this promotes actual closeness.
The non-camera techniques of plant photography require material entanglements and physical contact with plant cadavers and cut-ups. In my argument, I will address a range of key issues which are central to this thematic field: What does the death of a plant actually mean? What practices of communing-with-the-deceased may be relied on today as a matrix for plant-human posthumous bodily intimacies? I will argue that the consciousness of the plant-human entanglement increases during the preparation process, which may be comprehended as a process of funeral preparations.
Magdalena Zamorska holds a PhD in Cultural Studies (2012) and is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Cultural Studies, University of Wroclaw (Poland). Her research interests include human and non-human movement, social choreography, intersections of the humanities and sciences, critical posthumanities, new materialism, and critical plant studies. She has completed basic Instructor in Choreotherapy training (2010), published a study on butō dance in Poland (Intense Bodily Presence: Practices of Polish Butō Dancers, 2018) and completed the project Multimediality: The New
(Electronic and Digital) Media in Polish New Dance for the Polish Institute of Music and Dance (2014). At the moment, she is involved in the international collaborative project STELLA (Somatic Tech Live Lab) and is researching for her new project on plant ethics for dance and choreography.
My proposed paper will develop two interrelated points. First, I will suggest that the business simulation Jurassic World Evolution (Frontier Developments, 2018) confronts player-entrepreneurs with the necrocapitalist logic undergirding today’s economic system (cf. McBrien 2016); second, I will argue that the video game exposes the necrofuturist nostalgia the Jurassic Park franchise taps into. Concerning the first point, Jurassic World Evolution asks players to perform a cycle of creative destruction consisting of serialized processes of de-extinction and re-extinction, as dinosaurs are deextincted only to be re-extincted when a successor that is “better, louder, with more teeth” becomes available. The revenue players generate is thus founded on a cycle of extinction, de-extinction, and reextinction. As to the second point, de-extinction is at the heart of the virtual entrepreneurship experience. To be sure, de-extinction promises a solution to our extinction crisis by offering a means to re-establishing natural harmony through techno-scientific means. Accordingly, de-extinction employs a past characterized by natural abundance to assuage fears produced by a future devastated by mass extinction. However, by confronting player-entrepreneurs with the necrocapitalist logic they engage in, the video game suggests that de-extinction will bring about a future characterized by an exponential growth in serialized extinctions.
Michael Fuchs is a postdoctoral researcher in the project “Interpreneurship: Styria Meets the USA” at the Center for Inter-American Studies at the University of Graz, Austria, and a postdoctoral researcher in the “Science in TV Series” project at the English and American Studies Department of the University of Oldenburg, Germany. For details on his past and ongoing research, see www.michael-fuchs.info.
In her 1988 “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective” Donna Haraway suggests that new metaphors should be forged to respond to “ an earthwide network of connections” (580) and thus see the object of knowledge as a full spectrum of agencies of the world. Also Felix Guattari recognizes, as indicated in his The Three Ecologies, the need to map whole range of heterogenous perspectives (social, mental and environmental vectors) to refrain from the failures and limitations of western models of knowledge production. Both standpoints support cross-disciplinary practice-based research, that embrace relations to times, material, political territories and our more-than-human entanglements. Drawing on that perspectives, the presentation explores the question how artistic practices contribute to the revisions of knowledge production and thus enable us, referring to Donna Haraway’s statement, “to become more answerable for what we learn how to see” in the Anthropocene. (583)? While unfolding in situations, planes of composition as well as institutional frameworks, the analyzed practices merge scientific, philosophical, artistic with activist research.
I will examine individual research-based artistic projects which take us on an immersive and cross-disciplinary journey through the anthropocentric conceptualization of nonhuman agents to activate us to take responsibility for the accepted status quo in the Anthropocene. As I will indicate, the (re)situation of more-than-human knowledge in the practices enables us to acknowledge both the peripheries and the depths of our wordily entanglements with the intensive dynamics of the nonhuman world and thus eradicate inequalities we all share. In this sense, the artistic process is seen as the reconfiguration of knowledge through material practices of engagement that requires from us, in the idiom of Karen Barad, ethico-onto-epistem-ological approach thanks to which we become responsible, capable to respond, and accountable for “the lively relationalities of becoming, of which we are a part” (69).
Justyna Stępień is an Assistant Professor in Cultural Studies in the Department of British Literature and Culture of University of Lodz, where she received her doctorate in 2012. In the years 2012-2019, she worked as an Assistant Professor at the English Institute of University of Szczecin. She is an author of British Pop Art and Postmodernism (2015), an editor of Redefining Kitsch and Camp in Literature and Culture (2014) and co-editor of a special issue of Open Cultural Studies Journal Transmediating Culture(s)? (2017). She is currently working on her book devoted to posthumanist artistic practices. She belongs to an international research group/ collective The Posthuman Art and Research Group (aka. Dori.O) that consists of artists and researchers from all over Europe.
The Anthropocene is a condition of rupture (Hamilton, 2016) caused by and resulting in losing (Western) heads, with loss of dominion over ‘nature’ and (common) sense. This paper takes loss of head metaphorically further through its relationship to severing mind (head) from matter (body) in Cartesian thinking which guided Euro-Western objectification of nature, installing centrality of mind crucial for anthropocentrism.
The universalising logic of the Anthropocene according to Davis and Todd is ‘structured to sever the relations between mind, body, and land’ (2017, p.761). They make the case that Crutzen’s and Stoermer’s (2000) Anthropocene proposal emphasised the noösphere – a layer of thought that sits ‘above the biosphere and geosphere’ (2017, p.768) – therefore replicating Euro-Western division of thought, severed from the rest of biota and land and ultimately ‘replicates the […] epistemic violence of European colonialism’ (2017, p.769). Consequently, exposing severed wounds is imperative in the Anthropocene.
Embodiment and re-materialisation are called for in the Anthropocene and henceforth this paper analyses early modern Western religious and mythological paintings of acephalous states and those by contemporary artists such as Nigel Cooke. Forging connections between decollated heads, still life (natures mortes) and emojis, with the bodilessness of the digital Anthropocene, this paper urges for a finding of bodies and not losing heads.
Rachel Magdeburg is a visual artist, writer and PhD candidate at the University of Wolverhampton, UK, researching through art practice contemporary painting and the Anthropocene.
This paper addresses issues of eco-criticism and cosmotechnics (Hui, 2016) as they are articulated in two artworks in the collection of ARKEN. Cosmotechnics, as it is applied, here regards the relation between nature and a human horizon of moral, cultural, hermeneutic character, articulated through technical means and activities.
Exposing sheets of photo sensitive paper for 1, 2 and 2 ½ minutes during night-time at the parking lot at ARKEN in April 2017, artist Nanna Debois Buhl has produced a series of images showing small dots of light on a dark background. The specks of dust and grains of sand make it out for stars in the sky. Through engaging with the technique of the celestograph, Debois Buhl opens to questions around the function and status of photographic registrations in relation to the depicted elements of nature.
In Lea Porsager’s video work Disrupted E(a)rthereal Fantasy (Ova Splash) (2016) sculptural abstractions of the inner ear become a point of connection to a spiritual dimension. Here we have to do with an investigation of bodies on molecular and spiritual levels making connections through specific forms of correspondence and communications. We may not be fully capable of understanding these connections, but we get the chance to meet them in the composition of visual, textual-semantic, and material elements of the artwork.
The objective of this paper, therefore, is twofold: to present readings of two works from ARKEN’s collection through the perspective of cosmotechnics, and to provide new perspectives to the discussion of an Anthropocene condition through art.
Anne Kølbæk Iversen (b. 1984) is a postdoctoral researcher affiliated with ARKEN – Museum of Modern Art, where she conducts the research project From a Grain of Dust to the Cosmos (2019-2020).
As a PhD studentshe was part of the research project The Contemporary Condition at Aarhus University and obtained her degree with the dissertation Forms and Formations of Memory. Artistic negotiations of (trans)individuations in light of contemporary memory conditions (2019).
Thy city is made of solid stuff. Yet, the urban morphology of the metropolis has been referred to as anything but hard, static, inert, stable, or fixed – in fiction as well as urban theory. My paper offers an analysis of non-solidity as a central metaphor used to deconstruct and oppose the climatically dire materialities of urban landscapes in the Anthropocene. Aside from ubiquitous depictions of cities surrounded by liquid – meaning dystopian fiction in which the city floats or is swallowed whole by the rising sea – that merely address climate change via calamity, speculative architectural practices have visualized the built urban environment itself as liquid and understood building as a melting, mixing, morphing, and metabolizing activity. Through the lens of material agency, this paper will examine the works of architects Peter Cook, founding member of radical futurist group Archigram (1960–1974), in comparison to Kishō Kurokawa, associated with the Metabolist movement (1958–1970ies), who both have employed non-solidity as a mode of building environments, incorporating technology and inhabiting urban space. The hybrid city schemes that emerged, invite intersections among the environmental humanities, (neo-) cybernetics, media theory, and urban studies, as they visualize the non-solid qualities and metabolic life of cities beyond their mineral foundation.
Johanna Mehl studied communication design and art and design studies. Next to her artistic and curatorial practice, she has taught at different design schools in europe and is currently working at the Hochschule für Künste Bremen as a lecturer in urban and media theory and at Köln International School of Design as a lecturer and coordinator of the MA program Integrated Design. She is pursuing a PhD in art and design theory in collaboration between the University and Technical University of Cologne.
Let’s consider the post-soviet situation not as a bygone traumatic legacy, but as an urgency that affects the whole temporal, material and discursive strata of our existence. That is to say that for local humans and other biological habitants the post-soviet has become an actual ‘‘trouble” with the multiple and quite living manifestations of its heritage. Various hybrids (Sosnowsky’s hogweed, sunroot, kombucha, consequences of drying of the marshes etc.) — created and detained by the ideology of proletarian humanism — had broken away after the collapse of the Soviet Union and had turned into independent and powerful non-human feral politics that we call “ferations”. Today, seeping into our daily cosmologies, they are stalking us at such a catastrophic distance that demands our attention to redefine their eco/ontological status. Referring to our theoretical, artistic and expeditionary work with abandoned landscapes, we are trying to redefine the importance of post-soviet cosmologies and research co-existence with them to the whole planetary ecosystem. To grasp our research and theoretical contemplations we created a digital platform named “Russian Ferations”. Here we are presenting our postdisciplinary methodology which we use in our theory-art research of abandoned/ ecologically imbalanced territories. In our paper we would like to introduce “Russian Ferations” developed with biologists, geobotanists, cartographers, designers, philosophers, chemical engineers and artists.
Ekaterina Nikitina — Ph.D. in Literary Studies (University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland), independent researcher in the field of posthuman studies, lecturer on Critical Posthumanism at the Arts&Science international educational program of ITMO University (Saint-Petersburg).
Nikita Sazonov — philosopher, independent researcher, Moscow. His interests focuses on speculative philosophy, geophilosophy and inhuman politics.
Ippolit Markelov — Ph.D. in biology, (graduated Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia), science artist exploring the problem of transspecies and intraspecies communication, with using artistic, neuroscience and bioengineering methods.
The proliferation of migration has created transnational communities that collide daily. Since social networking sites (SNSs) can potentially downplay cultural barriers, they emerge as a potential medium to break down social distance between migrants and receiving communities and thus, enable meaningful intercultural contact offline. This presentation focuses on Meetup, an SNS that facilitates offline encounters between its users by using shared interests and leisure (rather than age, gender or ethnicity) as the primary criteria for membership. With a mixed-methods approach comprising of surveys, semi-structured interviews, and social network analysis, I explore the extent to which Meetup promotes or obstructs the formation and maintenance of sustainable intercultural relationships in Melbourne, Australia. Preliminary results indicate that Meetup is effective in bridging cultural barriers, however, they also suggest that Meetup’s social networks are highly centralised and unstable. Meetup seems to be a living, breathing, organism that ebbs and flows in terms of participation, which could pose challenges for users who wish to sustain relationships overtime, and therefore, to long-lasting change. By identifying the factors that enhance or obstruct intercultural relationships via the use of SNSs, this study’s findings can contribute new knowledge to stakeholders striving to improve intercultural relationships in culturally diverse areas.
Lourdes Zamanillo is a PhD candidate at Monash University. Her research explores intercultural relationships in the context of a mobile, mediated, world. Before doing her PhD, she studied the role of empathy as a catalyst for change in tourism encounters and worked as a journalist in her home-country, Mexico; specializing in topics such as social enterprise, solutions journalism and social entrepreneurship.
Sound agency in the context of acoustic ecology and Timothy Morton’s hyperobjects In my presentation I would like to reshow the soundscape concept created by Raymond Murray Schafer. I would like to extend its range with a contemporary ecological perspective represented by such philosophers as Bruno Latour or Timothy Morton. The acoustic ecology introduced by Schafer in 1960s is based on the strictly anthropocentric model where a human is surrounded by the sound events or the sound environments. The sound in this case is reflecting humans cultural, historical, sociological and economical transitions – the changes that are constituted only within external relations between the human and the environment, only within a human perception. The advent of Anthropocene epoch re-evaluated the status of the human in the environment. Along with the posthuman tendencies it has blended the human among other non-human beings creating the relationships of equal potential of agencies on both sides. Timothy Morton adopts the zero-person perspective and the hyperobject model in the way of thinking about the landscape – the human is not a third-person observer but is included in the landscape with all of his surroundings (including the acoustical environment). I would like to translate this non-anthropocentric way of thinking about ecological connections into the contemporary ways of using soundscapes (i.e.Dunn, Crutchfield – soundscape research on the bark beetle and Monica Gagliano’s plant biocommunication research). I would like to present how the sound and the soundscape can be the autonomous, dynamic non-human agent. I would also note how this kind of relationships enhances the way of perceiving the acoustic reality and creates the aforementioned Morton’s zero-perspective in which the human not only observes changes in the acoustic space but also interact with the independent sound agency.
Przemysław Degórski Composer, conductor, media artist, researcher; graduated from Adam Mickiewicz University in 2018 (Interactive Media and Performance). In 2018 he started Phd studies at Institute of Theatre and Media Art at Adam Mickiewicz University. He is the member of Interdisciplinary Research Center Humanities/Art/Technology at AMU. In his research he is interested in exploring direct relationships and interactions between the sound and the movement, analysing sonic relations within sound environments. As an art&science artist he incorporates interactive technologies in his projects, working with dancers sonificating motion.
In the 1950s, Lois and Herb Crisler raise seven wild-born wolf pups for the purpose of filming a documentary. The wolves are denied their freedom, and Lois laments the irreversibility of their condition: it is either death or captivity for the animals she loves. Decades later, a third option is explored by two other women. Their captive-raised wolves are rewilded: untamed, unnamed, and returned to the wilderness. One story begins in 2010 in Zoige Grassland, China, with a painter Li Weiyi and a wolf she names Green; the other is set in 1980s in the Pacific Northwest, where Teresa Tsimmu Martino, an artist and a poet, shares her life with the wolf Mckenzie. In the time of climate change and sixth mass extinction, their efforts pose a question: does saving an individual animal matter when the survival of so many species is uncertain? Is preserving the wilderness in its intact state—if it still exists—possible, or are animal captivity and wildlife management inevitable in the Anthropocene? This paper seeks the answers in the women’s memoirs, which not only describe their ambiguous relationship to the animals, but also reveal the changing attitudes of humans towards the wilderness.
Currently a doctoral candidate in English literature, Paulina Szymonek holds a master’s degree in English Philology from the University of Silesia. Research interests include animal studies, mythology, nature writing and wildlife conservation.
This paper provides a reconsideration of social reproduction in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Social reproduction, defined as the activities that regenerate life, has long been central to materialist feminism. Building on a long genealogy of struggle, in recent years feminist movements from Argentina to Italy, have made visible the continuous devaluation of gendered and racialized reproductive labour under neoliberal capitalism. In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, social reproduction and care have been widely used for highlighting the value of life-making activities including healthcare and education, as well as the stark care inequalities along the axes of gender, race, class, age and geography. Social reproduction theorists, however, often tend to sidestep the ecological dimension of reproduction that the pandemic has brought into relief. This paper argues that the Covid-19 pandemic demands a reconsideration of reproduction and care in two distinct ways. First, by considering the nexus between the appropriation of women’s reproductive labor and that of the biosphere, reduced to a repository of resources in the current mode of production; second, by reflecting on a notion of asymmetrical, and often non-reciprocal care, that would open up the space for more just socio-ecological relations in a more-than-human world.
A scholar and activist, Miriam Tola is an assistant professor of Environmental Humanities at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. Her current book project focuses on the resurgence of the commons from feminist and decolonial perspectives. She has written about the intersections between gender, colonialism and materiality in the political imaginaries of the environment for numerous academic journals and media outlets.
The Anthropocenic wound of extinction is grounded in Linnean species ontics, which both inscribes the notion of biological individuality and buttresses ideas of species hierarchy that undergird anthropocentric thinking. An ethics of relation grounded in human exceptionalism has since proved disastrous for countless nonhuman lives, particularly those bodies now at risk of erasure. In this way, extant notions of life recursively open the wound of death (specifically, the death of the other). Such categorical distinctions have long been complicated by biosciences’ claim for symbiotic relation as the basis of life (e.g. Margulis, Gilbert), and by posthumanities’ claim (e.g. Braidotti, Haraway) for relationality as an ontological ground that substitutes being for becomings-with. This paper responds to calls for novel figures and concepts adequate to representing porous, entangled, transcorporeal, nomadic and becoming-imperceptible subjects. It engages Braidotti’s philosophy of life as a transversal vital force (Zoe) to propose the figuration of the web-building spider—the arachnomad—whose queer ethologies and life/death ecologies complicate binary, mechanistic notions of life, sex, death, and bodily thresholds. It considers how Zoephilic engagements with arachnomadic figures might queer categorical thinking, and mobilise a more nuanced ethics of relation across thresholds of difference: human/nonhuman, self/other, life/death.
Ally Bisshop is an artist, writer and researcher, currently working within the transdisciplinary Arachnophilia Department in the studio of artist Tomás Saraceno. She first studied biological science (B.Sc. Hons 1 Microbiology), before turning to artistic practice—studying at the UDK Berlin through Olafur Eliasson’s Institut für Räumexperimente, and completing a practice-based artistic PhD in 2018 (UNSW Sydney, National Institute for Experimental Arts).
Can we consider climate change as a symptom of post-extractivist stress disorder when we examine it as a form of slow violence (R.Nixon)? In this session we will present our artist film and photographic works addressing Loss and Damage as
AthroposcenaryCapitloscenary, that describes the visible wounds created during the extraction of fossil fuels, the landfall of a hurricane or the burning of a wildfire and approaches an understanding of the less tangible traumas of displacement and Solastalgia (G.Albrecht). We will then go on to explore how the “memories of the future” offered to us through the political and moral leadership of the climate-vulnerable seek to holistically heal, whilst authoritarian technocratic future scenarios threaten to rub salt into the wound.
Lena Dobrowolska & Teo Ormond- Skeaping are an artist’s collaboration working with a combination of photography, artist’s film, installation, virtual reality simulation and research. Their work considers the relationship between climate change, environmental degradation, human rights and geopolitics, and the ethics and aesthetics of documentary and journalistic practice.
In 2016 they were awarded Culture and Climate Change: Future Scenarios Networked Residency supported by Jerwood Charitable Foundation, The University of Sheffield, The Open University and The Ashden Trust. As part of the residency, they have collaborated with climate researchers and policymakers from Tyndall Centre for Climate Research, International Institute for Environment and Development, International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Dhaka and NGO’s UNHCR, Jesuit Refugee Services, producing work in Bangladesh, Nepal, Uganda, Lao PDR, United Kingdom and The United States of America.
In 2019 Dobrowolska & Ormond-Skeaping were awarded COAL Prize on Climate, Disaster, Displacement supported by the Coalition for Art and Sustainable Development and François Sommer Foundation. They have presented their work at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties COP25 in Madrid to climate negotiators. They are currently working on the speculative futuristic short film about climate displacement.
Recent exhibitions include: Future Scenarios, Museum of Natural History Bienal Fotografia Do Porto (2019), Future Scenarios ,Kunst Haus Wien Museum Hundertwasser (2019), Taxed to the Max: At least you are not afraid to live life on the brink of chaos, Noorderlicht International Photography Festival (2019), Human Nature, Fotofestiwal Lodz (2018).
The arts and the sciences, two manifestations of human creativity, have accompanied the advent of the Anthropocene. As products of human civilisation, they comment on, and analyse, the role humans play in transforming their own world. Our project, improvised theatre augmented by artificial intelligence (AI)-based chatbots and robot-based actors , combines arts and science, by playful investigation of how human actors can perform on stage alongside machines . While attempting to build a “digital actor”, we explore how mechanical and human minds can interact in artistically interesting ways, and which aesthetic and ethical topics arise in the process. Our work is inscribed in the larger AI for Creativity movement that employs machine learning models for music, text and visual art generation. In improvised theatre stories are made up on the fly, based on audience interaction, sometimes conjuring human experience, sometimes embracing the absurd; so-called improv is performed spontaneously while giving to the audience the illusion of a planned, scripted play. Similarly, AI-based chatbots – relying on state-of-the-art statistical language models that generate likely responses to human textual input – can achieve the illusion of conversing with humans by producing plausible (i.e. statistically likely) text without understanding the meaning of the words used. Parallelling these two methodologies is our artistic statement about the illusion of human communication, sometimes devoid of meaning or of proper grounding in nature. Using AI as a medium of artistic creation and performance, we stimulate the imaginations of audiences and performers by creating science-fiction scenarios challenging the place of humans on Earth. Our practice of human-machine narrative generation, leveraging the latest research on natural language understanding (machine-reading) hypothetically paves the way toward pure robot theatre where robots would perform art for the enjoyment of other robots – a statistically likely feature of the advent of the Robocene.
Piotr Mirowski, a theatre actor and researcher in AI, co-founded HumanMachine and Improbotics, world’s first AI-enabled improv companies. Experimenting with AI for artistic human and machine-based co-creation, Piotr created shows featuring robots and chatbots that have toured internationally (featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and New Scientist). Piotr obtained a Diploma in Acting at London School of Dramatic Art (2015-2017) and performed in 5 plays and over 200 improv comedy shows. Piotr works as Staff Research Scientist at DeepMind on AI research applied to navigation (Nature 2018) and weather forecasting. He obtained his PhD in computer science in 2011 at New York University.
Kory Mathewson completed his Ph.D. in computing science at the University of Alberta with the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute. His research focuses on human-centric interactive machine learning and human-machine interfaces. He also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and a Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering. Kory is also an accomplished improvisational theatre actor and director working around the world with Rapid Fire Theatre and Improbotics — additional details at https://korymathewson.com
(6am CET, GMT+2)
- Szymon Kaliski
- Marek Straszak
- Arek Zub